QI (F series)

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QI Series F
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 12
Original channel BBC
Original release 14 November 2008 – 20/21 March 2009
Series chronology
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Series E
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Series G

The sixth series of QI, the BBC comedy panel game television program hosted by Stephen Fry, contains episodes themed around the letter "f". Series F was the first series to broadcast originally on BBC One, starting on 9 January 2009,[1] with the exception of two episodes: one made for Children in Need, which was broadcast on BBC Two on 14 November 2008, and a Christmas special, transmitted on 22 December 2008 on BBC One.

The rest of the series began on 9 January 2009 on BBC One, with an extended version of the show (known as QI XL) shown on BBC Two the following day.


Whereas the previous series had seen only two new guests, series F featured new guests in most of the episodes. They were; Pam Ayres, Marcus Brigstocke, Hugh Dennis, Reginald D. Hunter, Dom Joly, Ben Miller, John Sergeant, Emma Thompson and Sir Terry Wogan. Wogan was the first guest in the show's history to have previously received a knighthood.

Originally, the main bonus of the series, following on from the "E" Series' "Elephant in the Room" was to be the "Fanfare", where if any of the panelists said something particularly interesting a fanfare would sound. In the end, this only appeared in the final episode when David Mitchell was talking about French and Russian dinner service. It was styled as the "Teacher's Pet" prize. The only other time it was mentioned was in the extended version of "the Future" episode, when Stephen says that if any of the panelists knew the answer to why the Crypt of Civilization was to be opened in 8113 "I'll reward you with 2 fanfares".

The Children in Need special was the last edition of QI to be originally transmitted on BBC Two. All the others were shown on BBC One, starting with the Christmas special on 22 December 2008, with the series proper commencing on 9 January 2009. This transfer of networks also brought about the broadcasting of extended versions – called 'QI XL' – on BBC Two the following day (as per Have I Got News for You since 2007). This was the first series of QI not to be produced by John Lloyd. The role was taken by Piers Fletcher.

This series was the first to be broadcast in Australia, with the "Flotsam and Jetsam" episode being broadcast on 20 October 2009 on ABC1.[2]

Episode 1 "Families" (Children in Need special)[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 14 November 2008
Recording date
  • 5 June 2008
  • The show initially began with Pudsey Bear, the Children in Need mascot, in the place of Terry Wogan, but Pudsey was ousted from his chair after the introductions were given. Additionally, the QI logo behind Fry was adorned with Pudsey's multicoloured polka-dot bandana, and many stuffed Pudsey Bears filled the QI logo in front of the panellists, as well as each panellist having their own Pudsey.
General Ignorance
  • The family in The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss, have no surname (forfeit: Robinson). It was misconstrued as the original title was "Swiss Robinson Crusoe Family", which was translated to Swiss Family Robinson by William Godwin. A third of all film and television adaptations based on the book give the family surname as "Robinson".
  • A boomerang that won't come back is a "Kylie" (forfeit: a stick). Throwing sticks that come back and do not come back are both used by aborigines to drive birds towards nets, not to kill the birds.
  • As discussed in Series A, the word "kangaroo" comes from the Guugu Yimithirr language (forfeit: Aboriginal for "I don't know"). English explorers then used the word to people who spoke other languages who did not know what they were talking about.
  • Bertrand Russell proved that 1 + 1 = 2 using symbolic logic. Russell wrote about this in his book Principia Mathematica after set theory gave rise to several paradoxes, causing fears that nothing could be proved and that some of the great questions could never be answered.

In discussing old wives' tales, David Mitchell is censored while saying "wanking" and then "wankers", which is not normally done on post-watershed broadcasts in Britain. One possible reason could be in the context of airing the episode as part of a broadcasting event traditionally aimed at a family audience, even though QI itself was broadcast in the usual time slot. (The sound effect used to cover up the words is not the usual bleep but a quacking sound, indicating that it may be removed from repeat screenings and the DVD release). Later in the episode, he plainly uses the word "shit" without censorship.

Episode 2 "Fire & Freezing" (Christmas special)[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 22 December 2008
Recording date
  • 29 May 2008
  • The panel are all dressed in winter clothing such as scarves and woolly hats.
  • In Native American smoke signals, one puff usually meant "Hello" and two puffs usually meant "All's well". However, the meaning of signals did differ from place to place.
  • Communicating with paper fans came about in the 19th century in France. A booklet was made of signals that users could make to each other – which was probably designed to increase fan sales. Fans were invented in China, and were brought into Europe via Italy by Marco Polo.
  • The main reason why there are fewer poles nowadays is because most modern fire stations are built with just one floor, so no pole is needed. (forfeit: health and safety gone mad).
  • "Fire eaters lung" is the condition caused when fire eaters inhale the flames. Fire-eating can cause terrible damage to the mouth, they hold toxic lighter fluid in their mouths so they can spit into the fire.
  • During the Second World War, there was a plan to make an aircraft carrier from substance made from ice and sawdust called "Pykrete", as it is a stronger material than steel and does not melt. The proposed ship would have had guns on it that would fire super-cooled water to immobilise the enemy, and could be repaired using seawater, but the ship was never made because of the Normandy Landings.
  • Lord Louis Mountbatten convinced Winston Churchill to make a pykrete aircraft carrier after he threw some in Churchill's bath and showed him that it did not melt in his hot bath water.
  • The original Twelve Days of Christmas, does not contain the famous theme "Five gooold rings". Frederic Austin changed the normal line to the elongated version sang today, this version of the line is still under copyright by Novello & Co. (Forfeit: "Five goooold rings" (when the panellists were asked about everyone's favourite part of the traditional song))
General Ignorance
  • When you blow out a candle, there is a drop in temperature that causes the fire to go out. Fire needs three things to work: oxygen, heat and fuel. Trick candles use a wick that is made out of a material which burns at a low temperature, this is the reason they are hard to blow out.
  • Yes or no: "You know how sometimes it can be too cold to snow?" The answer is no (forfeit: yes). While it is true that you need some moisture in the air to snow and that there is less moisture when it is very cold, snow can not fall because it's too cold.

The original transmission received an average 5.1m viewers, a 21.6% audience share.[3]

Episode 3 "Flotsam & Jetsam"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 9 January 2009
Recording date
  • 12 June 2008
  • Each of the team is given a nautical flag.
    • Charlie: R for Romeo – "The way is off my ship".
    • Andy: Z for Zulu – "I require a tug".
    • Rob: J for Juliet – "I am on fire" or "I am leaking".
    • Alan: D for Delta – "Keep clear of me; I am manoeuvring with difficulty".
    • Stephen: U for Uniform – "You are running into danger".
    • Other flags include O for Oscar, which means man overboard, N for November, which means no and F for Foxtrot which means "I am disabled; communicate with me".
  • There are four classes of maritime wreckage according to the act created in 1995. The difference between Flotsam and jetsam is that flotsam is wreckage from a shipwreck and jetsam is purposely jettisoned thrown off a boat. Lagan is cargo at the bottom of the sea often marked by a buoy that can be retrieved later, but derelict can't be retrieved.
  • According to his autobiography, "Boy Wonder: My Life In Tights", Burt Ward (who played Robin in the Batman TV series) claimed he had sex with his fan girls which he called "the Ultimate Autograph, signed with Bat-Sperm" and that his co-star Adam West watched. Stephen misunderstands this and at first and says he signed autographs in his own sperm.
  • The Dana Octopus Squid, found in the North Pacific Ocean, flashes light all over its body.
  • In the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, for up to 280 times an hour for ten hours a night and for 180 days of the year, a lightning storm is seen, which is also the biggest contributor of ozone in the world.
  • The Borgia pope, Pope Alexander VI had naked prostitutes grovelling on the floor for chestnuts during the Feast of the Chestnuts.
General Ignorance
  • It is officially unknown who invented rugby football. (forfeit: William Webb Ellis) William Webb Ellis died three years after the story of him running with the football was first told and Football hadn't been codified until after rugby had been invented.
  • James Bond's job was an intelligence officer (forfeit: secret agent), because in the British Secret Service, an agent was an informant to other intelligence officers and aren't officially staff.
  • A description of the maximum number of folds a sheet of paper can sustain is given by the following (mathematics of paper folding). The formula was discovered by a girl called Britney Gallivan who, demonstrating its application, folded a sheet of long toilet roll 12 times. (Forfeits: 7, 8)

W = \pi t 2^{(3/2)\left(n-1\right)}.

L = \frac{\pi t}{6}\left(2^{n}+4\right)\left(2^{n}-1\right).
W is the width and L is the length needed to be able to fold a paper of thickness t a number of n times.
QI XL Extras
General Ignorance

Episode 4 "Fight or Flight"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 16 January 2009
Recording date
  • 19 May 2008
  • Alan Davies (−11 points)
  • Pam Ayres (Winner with 3 points, but her score was not revealed – see "Other") 1st and only appearance
  • Sean Lock (−12 points) 15th appearance
  • Johnny Vegas (1 point) 2nd appearance
  • As part of the "Fight or Flight" theme, some of the panellists wore flying clothing. The buzzers were operated by joysticks.
  • Most footage of skydiving seems to show that the parachute lifts the parachutist upward when deployed. This is an optical illusion caused by the cameraman filming the parachutist falling faster, so his subject appears to be going up relative to him.
  • During World War II, Flight Lieutenant Maurice "Shorty" Longbottom's Spitfire was painted pink during photo-reconnaissance missions so it would not be spotted on cloudy days, as it would stick out if it was any other colour.
  • Flying fish, in French, is "exocet", the name of a missile used against British Armed Forces in the Falklands War. Flying fish glide, not fly, and can only stay above water for thirty seconds.
  • The opposite of the flying fish is a 'swimming bird', a Penguin. Swimming and flying are essentially the same, because it uses the same muscles and principles.
  • Women hold all the British records for the largest fish caught. There is a myth that was generated that the reason for this is that female pubic hair attract fish because they give off pheromones, but humans actually don't give off pheromones.
  • A bear would always win a fight against a lion as the lion's skull, although very muscular, is thin and not very strong, so the bear could crush the skull. This was proven by a man who brought a lion and a bear to California during the Gold Rush to entertaining the prospectors and miners. They also had bears fighting against various other animals such as bulls and even an African lion, the bear won every time. (Forfeit: lions (would win the fight))
  • It is easier to kill people wearing boxing gloves, than it is without. Bare-knuckled boxers aimed for their opponents chest and torso because they would hurt themselves if they hit the face, and wearing gloves removes this risk.
  • Vikings, including Flóki Vilgerðarson, used ravens to find nearby land while at sea. If there was land nearby, it would fly straight toward it. If there was no land to be seen, it would land back on the boat, but because they can't land on water. Vilgerðarson, who is also known as "Raven Flóki" discovered Iceland using this method.
  • Rockets accelerate best horizontally (forfeit: downwards), as their weight is not over the thruster.
General Ignorance
QI XL Extras
  • The panellists are shown a clip of a shadow of a bird with a short head and a long tail going one way and then the clip is wound back to make it look like a bird with a long neck and a short tail is seen and are asked which would scare a duckling more. Ducklings can recognise fear of shapes as soon as they're born. The first bird would frighten it, because it would look like a hawk, but not the second one, which looks like a goose that doesn't attack.
  • In 1871, during the Siege of Paris, the zoo was raided so that the Parisians could eat the animals on display there. Over one million communications were made that day by carrier pigeon and balloon messaging.
General Ignorance
  • Armoured knights during the Middle Ages mounted their horses normally (forfeit: winch). They never used winches because the armour weighed less compared to today's armour – those who wear it do need a winch. The idea of a winch being used was invented by Mark Twain in the 19th century.
  • During the recording of the show when the question "Which bird was first sent out by Noah?" was thrown out to the audience the one member of the audience who did speak was given points, however this was not shown in either the regular or XL version of the show. Under this technicallity that audience member won the show
  • Pam's score was not read out on the show. However, according to comments made by the show's producer Piers "Flash" Fletcher on QI's web forum, she scored 3 points.

The show received an average 4.5 million viewers, an 18% share, on its second week on BBC1, up from 4.3 million the previous week.[4]

Episode 5 "France"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 23 January 2009
Recording date
  • 13 May 2008
  • As part of the "France" theme, every panellist wore a beret and a garland of onions around their necks. A re-arrangement of the theme tune featured an accordion. The top of the set is lit in the colours of the tricolour.
  • At the start of the show, Stephen says he will award bonus points to anyone who can answer him in French.
  • Stephen asks Alan: "Donne-moi un mot, s'il vous plait, un mot pour un mammifère marin qui ne peut avaler aucun plus grand qu'un pamplemousse ?" The question translates as, "Name a marine animal that couldn't swallow [anything] bigger than a grapefruit?" The answer is the Blue Whale.
  • In Gascony in south of Bordeaux, shepherds stood on stilts to see further on ground that is not solid.
  • Right up to the 19th century, people in the French countryside hibernated, although their body temperature didn't drop like other animals that do hibernate.
  • In 1880, 80% of French people could not read, write or speak French. Most of the population spoke regional languages such as Occitan, Breton, Franco-Provençal, Basque, or the West Flemish dialect of Dutch. There were at least 50 dialects and 100 sub-dialects.
  • French people often use English words but with a slightly different meaning. "un people" means "celebrity", "un brushing" means "blow-dry", "un relooking" means "makeover" and "vaseliner" means "to flatter" (derived from the phrase "to butter someone up"). The Académie française does not include English words in French dictionaries.
  • Paris syndrome is a form of culture shock suffered by people from Japan. On average, 12 people per year are expensively repatriated to Japan. The Japanese Embassy in Paris has a 24-hour helpline for visitors suffering from 'Paris syndrome'.
  • France has one of the best military records by country, and they have taken part in more wars than any other country in the world. Out of 168 battles fought since 387 BC, France has won 109, lost 49 and drawn 10.
General Ignorance
  • The Romans did indeed wear togas, but disliked having to as they were difficult to put on. (forfeit: togas). Augustus passed a law ordering people to wear togas in the Roman Forum.
  • Racing cyclists shave their legs is because it is easier to clean wounds, sticking plasters stick better and come off less painfully, calves are massaged better and it makes them look better. (forfeit: aerodynamics).
  • Most Spaniards do not lisp when they speak. It is actually a feature of pronunciation in the Castilian dialect to distinguish the two phonemes /θ/ and /s/. (Forfeit: to avoid embarrassing the King – a myth claims that the /θ/ in Spanish came from people emulating a king with a lisp so as not to offend him)
  • The man who won the Battle of Hastings was called by people at the time as Guillaume le Bâtard – William the Bastard (forfeit: William the Conqueror). The name "William" did not exist at the time so the French mostly called him Guillaume, an early version of the name, Wilgelm, appears on the Bayeux Tapestry. The English referred to him as "The Bastard" (it was not rude to do so). One in every seven men in England was called "William" within 50 years of the invasion.
QI XL Extras
  • The Arc de Triomphe in the Place de l'Étoile at the end of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, was originally going to be an elephant-shaped monument dedicated to the achievement of Louis XV, described as the "Grand Kiosk to the Glory of the King".
  • At the time that the impressionist movement was founded, nearly everyone thought their paintings were "horrific, unfinished, non-sensical, drivel, artless and valueless." Impressionism was inspired by Japanese artworks brought to Europe in the 1850s.
  • The thing that comes from Paris, has short legs, a big head, wears a permanent grin and refuses to act its age is the axolotl (forfeit: Nicolas Sarkozy). Originally, it comes from Mexico, they only metamorph into a salamander if injected with iodine. There were two Mexican lakes where the axolotls are found, Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco. A group of six were found by Auguste Duméril in the 19th century and almost all specimens today are descended from those six.

Episode 6 "Fakes, Frauds & Fakirs"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 30 January 2009
Recording date
  • 12 May 2008
  • As part of the theme, each of the panellists began the show by holding up a mask (of one of the other three) over their face.
  • Jimmy, Marcus and Sean's buzzers are all vocalisations made by the Australian Superb Lyrebird, an animal which can mimic almost any noise. (Forfeits: camera, car alarm) But Alan's telephone sound really is a telephone (forfeit: lyrebird).
  • Pig-face ladies were actually a drunken and shaved bear in a dress. Pig-faced ladies were used in freak shows in the 19th century.
  • The French writer Guy de Maupassant so hated the Eiffel Tower that he insisted on often eating at the restaurant located in the tower's base - this being one of the few places he could avoid seeing the tower itself.
  • Count Victor Lustig was a con artist who pretended to be the an official of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphy and pretended to sell the Eiffel Tower to two different scrap metal merchants, one after the other, then ran off with the money.
  • In Miami in 1950, the women in charge of collecting the money from telephone exchanges discovered that as long as they had not put the money in the counting machines that were inside the suitcases, they could steal the money and the telephone company would have no idea how much money was taken, and they hid their money in their bras. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of loose change was stolen by these women.
  • The only real trick to being a sword swallower is being able to control your gag reflex. According to the Society of Sword Swallowers, a professional must swallow a sword that is no longer than 61 cm, but no shorter than 40 cm, otherwise it's not recognised. The most common medical complaint from sword swallowers is sore throats.
General Ignorance
  • "New London Bridge" is in Arizona, it was brought by Robert P. McCulloch as a tourist attraction for his new settlement at Lake Havasu and it is the third-biggest tourist attraction in America. (forfeit: he thought he was buying Tower Bridge).
  • If you went to the shops to buy butter but could not find any, you cannot buy (forfeit margarine) to replace it, because it is not sold in Britain. The UK Spreads Association claim that there is currently no margarine on sale in Britain.
  • There are 613 commandments in the Bible (forfeits: 10; 9; 8). There are in fact 14 different commandments mentioned in Exodus and Deuteronomy. If all of the other commandments listed in the Bible were included, there would be 613. The main reason why it's believed that there are ten is that Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4 all refer to "the Ten Commandments" that God gave the Israelites.
  • When a coin is flipped, there is a 51% chance it will land on the side that was facing upwards at the start (forfeit: 50/50) because coins obey the laws of mechanics and its flight is determined by their initial conditions.
QI XL Extras
  • Snake oil contains Omega-3, which can help mice to navigate around mazes quicker and develop their muscles.
  • Raspberry jam was popular in between the 19th and early 20th centuries, but as it was expensive fake jams were made. Rhubarb and sweetened turnips made the best fake jams and fake wooden pips were made in order to make the jam look more realistic. The trade was so successful, that making the pips were a profitable trade and factories were opened to make them. Sylvia Pankhurst, a social reformer and leader of the suffragette movement, was so shocked by the treatment of women in these factories that she set up her own factory making real jam during World War I.
  • When Archimedes discovered his theory of water displacement, the King of Syracuse used it to identify tainted tiaras that weren't made of gold.
  • Barnum statements are general statements used by psychics and mediums. They are also known as Forer questions, named after psychologist Bertram R. Forer, who gave his students a questionnaire of such questions. All the responses were the same.
  • The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary was a mythical half-sheep half-plant creature created in the 16th century to describe how cotton spread.

Episode 7 "Fingers & Fumbs"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 6 February 2009
Recording date
  • 5 May 2008
  • Anyone who said the "f-word" on the show would forfeit 10 points, but they could get five back if they beat Stephen on a game of rock-paper-scissors. However, if they lost to Stephen, they would be forfeited another 10 points. This episode was recorded before the infamous Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand Sachsgate incident, but broadcast after it. Therefore, this was entirely taken out of the original 30-minute show, and all references in the XL version were bleeped out.
  • Fargling is the American version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. According to the New Scientist, the best opening move in Rock, Paper, Scissors is scissors, because many believe that rock is the most common opener, so they pick paper.
  • The panellists are asked to put their pencils in their mouths. Phill and Dara are asked to put them between their teeth and Jo and Alan are asked to put them between their lips. They are then asked if "Quack" or "Moo" is funnier. The answer is "quack" because saying a word with a letter "k" in it forces you to smile. This is due to facial feedback.
  • A duck's quack can echo (forfeit: it doesn't echo). This was proven by a man at The University of Salford, who put a duck in a reverberation chamber.
  • The number of times you have to kiss a French person depends on which area of France you are in. In central or southern France they greet by kissing each other on the cheek twice and in the north they kiss four times.
  • The Thorny Devil, an antipodean lizard can take in water from any part of their body. The water doesn't just absorb through the skin, it goes through grooves and capillaries.
  • Physiognomy was a way of telling character from facial expressions, which was dictated by Aristotle. There was also the famous phrenology head of Lorenzo Niles Fowler, which points out emotional and cognitive parts of the head.
  • Each of the panellists are then given their phrenological descriptions:
    • Alan – Curly hair signifies someone who is "dull of apprehension", soon angry and given to lying and mischief. The distance between the eyebrows signifies hard-hearted, envious, close and cunning, addicted to cruelty more than love.
    • Dara – He who has a large full forehead and a little round with all, destitute of hair, or at least that has little on it is bold, malicious, high-spirited, full of choler, apt to transgress beyond bounds, yet of good wit and apprehensive.
    • Phill – He whose hair grows thick on his temples and his brow is by nature, simple, vain, luxurious, lustful, credulous, clownish in his speech and conversation, double chin shows appeaseable disposition, a great supplanter and secret in all your actions.
    • Jo – One whose hair is of reddish complexion is for the most part proud, deceitful, detracting, venerous and full of envy.
  • The Thatcher effect is an idea of face perception. It involves duplicating a picture of Margaret Thatcher and putting them both upside down. One of the pictures is unaltered, but the other has had the eyes and the mouth inverted, so when it returns to normal, it makes the face look deranged. This is an example of how when we see faces the right way up, we know where the derangements are, but when its upside down, it's harder to recognise. This was conceived by Peter Thompson at the University of York.
General Ignorance
  • You can tell the size of a person's hands by looking at a person's feet (forfeits: the size of his shoes; the size of his penis), because they are inproportionate in terms of size. Shoe sizes in Britain are measure in barleycorns, which is equal to a third of an inch.
  • There are no muscles in your fingers, only tendons (forfeit: One). The nearest muscles are found in the hand and the forearm.
  • It's easier to frown than smile, because it takes 12 muscles to smile and only 11 to frown.
QI XL Extras
General Ignorance

Episode 8 "Fashion"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 13 February 2009
Recording date
  • 4 June 2008
  • The panellists are challenged to create a catchphrase using 19th century catchphrases or catchphrases that they know of.
    • Alan – "Has your mother sold her mangle?"
    • Clive – "Who are you?" – pronounced as though it were one word
    • Rich – "You're dumber than a bag of wet mice!"
    • Reginald – "Do what you do best."
    • Stephen – "I can come in any trousers I like!"
  • Turn-ups were banned.
  • Tailors were told that they would go to prison if they intentionally sold long trousers.
  • Boys under 12 had to wear shorts.
  • Women couldn't wear stockings, so they drew seams on the backs of their legs, after staining their legs with gravy to make them look tanned.
  • The Gömböc is the first man-made mono-monostatic object. That means it can self-right from whatever position it's in. It was invented by Péter Várkonyi and Gábor Domokos, who was in the audience. Domokos explained that if any of the edges were 1/100 of a millimetre out, it couldn't self-right itself. The idea of the mono-monostatic shape was first found in the shell of turtles.
  • The first fossil discovered was of a Megalosaurus, discovered by Robert Plot. The bone was originally believed to be either a thigh-bone of a Roman elephant or a race of giant humans. The shape of the fossil was looked like a pair of testicles, so it was dubbed "Scrotum humanum".
General Ignorance
QI XL Extras
  • The Guinness Book of Records has an entry for "Worst Engagement Faux Pas". It was done by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., from where the expression, Gordon Bennett! comes from. He was engaged to a young New York socialite and got drunk and went to his fiancée's house, where there was a party full of stiff New York socialites and he urinated in the fireplace, thinking it was a toilet and walked out again. The engagement was called off and the brother of his fiancée challenged him to a duel.
  • A cauliflower, a rhinoceros and a pigeon's wing are all types of wig. Wigs were popularised by Louis XIII of France, who wore a wig after becoming bald in the early part of his life, and many imitated him. In the 18th century, people spent more on wigs than they did for the rest of their clothing put together.
  • An example of a living fossil is the Lomatia tasmanica, or the "King's Holly", which is 43,600 years old. A genetically identical fossil that is near it is a Pleistocene, which is millions of years old. Because of their longevity it's possible that they hold the secret to "eternal life".
  • The reason why many people think there are Martian canals is because an astronomer called Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen a lot of long straight lines on Mars, which he named "canali" and named them after rivers on Earth. Years later, Percival Lowell drew maps of the planet based on looking through his telescope, but they actually came from his head. It turned out they both had a condition known as Lowell's syndrome, in which blood vessels and the nodes where they meet seem to become straight lines.
General Ignorance
  • The macaroni, as mentioned in the song "Yankee Doodle", was another name for a dandy. The song was written by a British person, who claimed that the Yanks were dumb and showed that if you take someone that is supposed to be an insult, you throw it back in the oppressor's face.

Episode 9 "The Future"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 20 February 2009
Recording date
  • 6 May 2008
  • All panellists wore a silver sash. The set was decorated with rockets and the gap around the "i" in the QI magnifying glass was covered with flashing lights.
  • You are always doing something (forfeit: nothing), because there is no such thing as nothing.
  • According to the laws of physics, nothing forbids time travel and that time travel could be initiated by the Large Hadron Collider, because like telephones, you need a time machine at both ends, otherwise it wouldn't work.
  • Questions about people who tried to predict the future, but were "hopelessly wrong":
  • Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan was caught reading with his lips closed by Saint Augustine of Hippo, therefore being the first recorded person to be able to do so.
  • In the 1940s, during World War II, the Nazi machines, the Doodlebug and the V-2 were officially described as "robots", rather than machines and the British Authorities were terrified of discussing it in public.
  • The language of the future is expected to be Panglish, otherwise known as Pan English. 80% of people who speak English don't speak it as their first language. A popular language based on this currently is Singlish, a mixture of English, Chinese and Malay, the Singaporean equivalent of Franglais.
General Ignorance
  • The distance of the horizon is worked out by using the formula (with d being distance in miles and h being height in feet):
d = \sqrt{1.5h}
This normally means, when standing at sea level, the horizon is roughly 3 miles (4.8 km) away from you.
  • Fog kills more people than any other type of weather (forfeits: wind, snow, hail), due mainly to traffic accidents. The difference between fog and mist is that fog is denser.
QI XL Extras
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the first time capsule was created in the basement of Phoebe Hearst Memorial Hall and is known as the Crypt of Civilization and it's due to be opened in the year 8113. Inside it there is a Bible, a Qur'an, the Iliad.
  • A building called the Corn Market in Windsor, built by Sir Christopher Wren had four pillars in it, because bureaucrats refused to have them removed (forfeit: to hold the roof up; to stop the roof from falling). Wren deliberately put a gap between the roof and the pillar as proof that weren't needed.
General Ignorance
  • Between 2000 and 2005, 0% of Guyana's rainforest was cut down, because every tree pulled down is immediately replaced with a new one.
  • The Forth Railway Bridge will have its paintwork completed in 2012 (forfeit: never).

Episode 10 "Flora & Fauna"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 27 February 2009
Recording date
  • 20 May 2008
  • Alan Davies (−18 points)
  • Jo Brand (−27 points) 21st appearance
  • Jimmy Carr (Technical winner with −1 point) 11th appearance
  • John Sergeant (−4 points) 1st and only appearance
  • The Audience (Winners with 10 points)
  • The set is decorated with grass, flowers and two garden gnomes.
  • The camellia was made famous in the novel, La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, the bastard son of Alexandre Dumas, père the author of The Three Musketeers. In the book, the heroine, Marguerite Gautier, wore a white camellia for 25 days of the month and a red one for 5 days of the month. signifying that she was "not available". The book caused a huge uproar in 19th century France and made the camellia an overnight garden sensation. The novel later became a play and an opera by Verdi, La traviata.
  • Flea circuses do exist and are not a myth, the fleas were tortured and were placed on the ringmaster's arm, because they fed on his blood. Among the acts were the fleas being glued to musical instruments, with the floor being heated, so it seemed like they were playing them.
  • The Killifish, found in the mangrove swamps of Florida and Belize, lives in trees when the swamps shrink. It's also the only vertebrate that is hermaphrodite and can self-fertilise, but not asexually.
  • Flamingos stand on one leg so they can go to sleep. Whichever leg is raised, that half of the flamingo goes to sleep in a torpid state, which lowers the blood flow. When they've had enough sleep, they swap the legs over.
  • The reason that flamingos are pink is because they eat blue-green algae, which is full of keratinoids (forfeit: because they eat prawns). In zoos they give the flamingos supplements to make them pink. They can drink boiling water, because they live near to geysers.
  • The Natterjack Toads, when sexually excited, they leap on anything if it's male or female, but if it's a male, the toad that it's leapt on will make a noise, meaning that it wants the toad to get off.
  • Between 1930 and 1960, female African clawed frogs were used as pregnancy tests. Until the 1950s, it was the only pregnancy test available. These frogs have potentially dangerous disease called Chytridiomycosis.
  • Until the 1960s, Ferrets are used by airline companies to go through small gaps in Boeing aeroplanes and help fit wires (forfeit: weasily). They were also used at the wedding of Charles and Diana.
General Ignorance
QI XL Extras
General Ignorance

Episode 11 "Film"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 6 March 2009
Recording date
  • 11 June 2008
  • The set is decorated with two large Oscar type statuettes (with shields instead of swords) two very large BAFTA type face masks, metal railings and a red carpet.
General Ignorance
  • A hedgehog doesn't die if its fleas are removed (forfeit: it dies).
  • William Shakespeare mentions 'cricket' three times (forfeit: never) during the 1550s – but it's the insect cricket, rather than the sport, although the latter did exist. (These last two questions were claimed to be true on David Mitchell's BBC Radio 4 show, "The Unbelievable Truth", but here they are revealed as false.)
  • Head lice don't mind what type of hair they're on as long as there is an adequate blood supply (forfeit: clean).
  • A flu jab works by giving you an inactive virus that helps the antibodies beat off flu (forfeit: by giving you 'flu).
QI XL Extras
  • The Wilhelm scream, which has been used in over 140 films. Sound recordist Ben Burtt uses it as many times as possible in the films he works on. The man doing the scream is called Sheb Wooley, who first used it on the film Distant Drums in 1951.
  • Englishmen's surnames beginning with a double-"f" are probably accidental, because in the 18th century, the way a capital "f" was handwritten meant it looked like a double-"f".
  • Florence Foster Jenkins, who was so rich she rented out Carnegie Hall for recitals, sang at Carnegie Hall at the age of 76 and sold out weeks in advance, with 2,000 people turned away at the door.
General Ignorance
  • The most depressing day of the week is Wednesday (forfeit: Monday). People would say Monday, but if you asked the same people over a long period of time on each separate day, it becomes Wednesday.
  • The most popular British film made by Innovia Films Ltd is cellophane, which made more than £360 million in 2008

This episode received 4.6 million viewers, a 21% share, in its original transmission.[6]

Episode 12 "Food"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 20 March 2009
Recording date
  • 28 May 2008
  • During the first part of the episode, the panellists are asked to put which areas of taste go where on a mini tongue map that they've each been given. Officially the tongue map has been disproven, but the most commonly believed version of the map from back to front is bitter, sour, salty and sweet, but since then umami (savouriness) has been discovered.
  • A discussion of the former use of tapeworms as a dieting aid.
  • The stone crab is a local delicacy in Florida. If its claws are snapped off, they can regenerate within a year.
  • An oyster can be taught how to keep closed for long periods of time. When oysters are out of water they stay fresh as long as they stay shut. This was achieved by hitting them with a metal rod, which made them close for long periods of time.
  • The Mounties used a fruit machine to determine whether candidates were homosexual or not. It measured the pupil dilation and perspiration and if they failed, they were sacked. This test was invented by Kurt Freund, a German living in Czechoslovakia, in order for people who used the fact they were gay to stop them from being in the Czechoslovakian Army.
  • French service involves bringing all the dishes out in one go, whereas the Russian service is where the dishes are brought out in courses. The Russian service method was brought into restaurants by Auguste Escoffier.
General Ignorance
QI XL Extras
  • Greco-Roman wrestling was invented by the French (forfeit: Greeks, Romans), who decided to give it a sort of classical name. It was invented as an alternative to freestyle wrestling.
  • Potato starch gives the worst tooth decay as it hangs around in the teeth, unlike sugar, which dissolves quickly in saliva.
  • The "Miracle of the Herrings", which gave Thomas Aquinas sainthood. He was ineligible as he hadn't performed a miracle, but on his deathbed he was claimed to say "I fancy a herring" and some pilchards were brought instead. He said they were the best herrings he'd ever had, which the Catholic Church interpreted as a miracle by saying that the pilchards had turned to herrings in his mouth.



  1. ^ "QI moves to BBC One". 2 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008. 
  2. ^ "QI". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 October 2009. 
  3. ^ Sweney, Mark (23 December 2008). "TV ratings: QI edges past The Bill with 5 million viewers". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Plunkett, John (19 January 2009). "TV ratings: QI closes in on Trial and Retribution". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Spain's Franco 'had one testicle'
  6. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (9 March 2009). "TV ratings: QI gives BBC the most laughs". Retrieved 9 July 2015.